Keith A. Brandt
Captain, United States Army
Remains Recovered January 1990, ID Announced 19 July 1990
Home: Bellingham, Washington
Rank/Branch: O3/US Army
Unit: D Company, 101st Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division
Date of Loss: 18 March 1971
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 163811N 1062239E (XD469397)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Other Personnel In Incident: Alan B. Boffman (remains recovered)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01
September 1990 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government
agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources,
Lam San 719 was the last major operation of the Vietnam War. It involved American multi-service support of ARVN troops in an invasion of Laos. The targeted area began around the city of Tchepone and extended south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The operation was a concentrated attempt to halt North Vietnamese troop and supply movements. After the ARVN successfully took Tchepone, they elected to withdraw. American Marines and Army aircraft helped them withdraw back into Vietnam. All the while, NVA troops followed, and withdrawal, at times, was very difficult.
As the last of the ARVN 4/1 were being extracted
and returned to Vietnam, and had been trapped in a crater, Captain Keith
Brandt came on station leading a flight of Cobra gunships in response to
Command & Control request for
At nearly five in the afternoon, the 173rd
Robinhoods began coming in from the east to extract the beseiged ARVN.
Brandt was still circling, and volunteered to lead the helicopters in,
as the ARVN had expended their last smoke grenade some hours earlier. He
radioed, "This is Music One-six. Follow me, Robinhood 3, and I'll lead
you to the friendlies." As they moved in, NVA fire exploded around them.
Brandt's Cobra shuddered and he radioed, "I've
ARVN were hanging from the skids of the aircraft in a desperate attempt to reach the safety of Vietnam. Many fell, some were injured on landing. Of the 88 at the crater, only 36 made it back to the safety of Khe Sanh. For Brandt and Boffman, little hope remained. They died as they lived, helping others, and with honor.
In mid-January 1990, a joint U.S./Lao team excavated the crash site of Brandt's helicopter and recovered human remains which were later identified as being those of both Brandt and Boffman. For their families, at least, comes the certainty of death.
For many of their comrades, however, clear
answers are not forthcoming. Laos is often called the "Black Hole" of the
POW issue because, of nearly 600 Americans lost there, not a single man
was ever released that had been held in Laos. The Pathet Lao stated on
several occasions that they held prisoners, yet we never negotiated for
their freedom. These men were abandoned by the government for which they
His call sign was "Music One Six". His voice was very deep, clear and unforgettable. Everyone there knew who "Music One Six" was, but nobody knew his name. His remains, and those of his copilot First Lieutenant Alan Boffman, came to the United States on 19 July 1990, 19 years, four months and one day after being shot down in Laos, 18 March 1971.
It was during LAM SON 719. "Music One Six" was the leader of an attack helicopter section from "D" Company, 101st Aviation Battalion. He and his section were assisting in the extraction of 1st ARVN Infantry Division's 4/1 Battalion after six weeks of heavy combat in Laos.
The 4/1 Battalion had a strength of 420 when they had been inserted 40 kilometers into Laos by helicopter combat assault. After six weeks of continuous contact with North Vietnamese Regulars, the battalion had been reduced in strength to 88, 61 of which were wounded. An English-speaking sergeant whose call sign was "Whiskey" was in command and had the only operable radio. They were surrounded in a bomb crater at the base of a 1,500 foot escarpment near the Xe Pon River. The enemy had loudspeakers and was calling for the unit to surrender.
Sixty-eight U.S. Air Force airstrikes were
used to keep the enemy forces from overrunning the 4/1 Battalion's final
positions. U.S. Army Cobra gunships fired in direct support of the unit.
Often, the effects of their fire were on the perimeter of the bomb crater.
"Music One Six" and his section had refueled, rearmed a number of times,
returning to the battle and expended their ammunition throughout the afternoon
in support of "Whiskey" and his unit. The last smoke grenade to mark the
friendly position has long since been used. "Music One Six" knew exactly
where the 4/1 survivors were. It was he who volunteered to lead the troop
carrying helicopters into the bomb crater to extract the
On final approach to the bomb crater, "Music
One Six's" Cobra came under intense enemy ground fire. He aborted the approach
and told the other helicopters to follow him around for another approach.
His aircraft was on fire and he had lost his hydraulic controls. He brought
his gunship into a slow 360-degree turn back toward the friendly unit.
Smoke and flames could be seen trailing from
his gunship as it turned toward the river. His rotor RPM was decaying as
the rotors noticeably began to slow down. "I've lost my engine and my transmission
is breaking up. Good-bye.
Everyone in the air over the bomb crater knew
that they had witnessed an unparalleled act of courage and selfless
devotion to duty; that one aircrew had given their lives so that 88 other
soldiers might live. Everyone there will always remember "Music One Six".
But nobody there that day knew his name. The urgency of a situation involving
fellow soldiers on the ground, had everyone together that day. To paraphrase
General MacArthur, "I know not of the dignity of their births, but I can
attest to the dignity of their deaths..." No heroes ever died more courageous
deaths. I was proud to be with them on the field of battle that day. I
was privileged to be at Travis Air Force Base on 18 July 1990 when "Music
One Six" Captain Keith Brandt (age 31 at death) and his copilot 1LT Alan
Boffman (age 24 at death) came home.
Photo Courtesy of Roxsanner Wells-Layton, August 2006